Rockall dispute: Iceland stakes claim to fishing waters

Rockall Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Several nations have made competing claims to the lucrative waters around Rockall

Iceland has reasserted its claim over waters around Rockall, an uninhabited island in the North Atlantic Ocean.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs said "the Hatton-Rockall area is part of the Icelandic continental shelf".

It comes after Scotland threatened legal action against Irish trawlers fishing in the waters.

The Republic of Ireland has stated it does not believe any country has a sovereign claim on the island.

The UK has long had a claim over Rockall, although this is not recognised by a number of neighbouring states.

The waters around the rock are rich in oil and gas opportunities, as well as fish.

Besides the UK, Ireland and Iceland, Denmark on behalf of the Danish Faroe Islands also has a claim on Rockall.

Icelandic fishing vessels

"Icelandic fishing vessels periodically catch blue whiting from common stocks near Rockall," said the spokesperson for the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"However, no Icelandic vessels are in the area at this time of year."

The statement noted that there are competing claims on the waters around the rock, and any consensus on ownership would have to be reached through the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Image caption Scotland asserts a 12-mile exclusion zone around the rock, which Ireland does not recognise

It stated Iceland had not consented to these as they would compromise its claim over "the continental shelf in this area".

What now?

Earlier this month, there was an agreement between the Scottish and Irish governments to "intensify" the talks to resolve the row.

"We don't have a claim on it. We don't accept any other sovereign claim on it," Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar has said.

He made the comments after Scotland's Fisheries Minister Fergus Ewing warned Irish vessels could be boarded for fishing within 12 miles of Rockall.

It has been accepted by officials in Dublin and Edinburgh that the UK leaving the EU will affect access to the waters around Rockall.

The area around Rockall is likely to be part of post-Brexit negotiations between the UK and EU.

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